Gwen D. Hughes, who worked at Kern Valley Healthcare District’s facility in Lake Isabella, was charged in the deaths of three patients. She pleaded no contest in Kern County Superior Court to one felony count of elder abuse with a special allegation that the abuse contributed to the victim’s death. She was only sentenced to three years in state prison for overmedicating patients at a Kern County nursing home, causing at least one wrongful death. The California Department of Public Health first began to investigate the facility in 2007, following complaints from an ombudsman that a patient at the facility had been held down and forcibly injected with psychotropic medications. See article at SFGate here.
Hughes ordered the hospital’s director of pharmacy to write doctor’s orders for psychotropic medication for 23 patients — not for therapeutic reasons, but to keep them quiet. Officials say the drugs were given to patients who were noisy, prone to wandering, who complained about conditions or were argumentative. The investigation found that the drugs hastened three patients’ deaths, and all 23 suffered adverse physical reactions.
Pamela Ott, the former chief executive officer of the Kern Valley Health District, pleaded no contest to one felony count of conspiracy to commit an act injurious to the public health, based on her failure to adequately supervise Hughes. Ott was sentenced to three years of formal probation.